HCI design of a web application for documenting Indigenous children’s vocabulary learning


Research areas

External Member

Dr Carmel O'Shannessy, School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics


This project aims to design and implement a platform-independent web application for documenting the early vocabulary learned by young Indigenous children (aged 8-36 months) in Central Australia. Indigenous adults will use the web application to document their own children’s language use by choosing the corresponding word or picture from a written list, or audio recording their own version of the word that the child has said. Linguists at the ANU who will use these recordings in their language acquisition research.

These audio recordings and other associated data will be fed back to the ANU project leaders and can also be retained by the families. The tool will need to incorporate vocabulary from more than one language, and will be used on low-tech phones with internet access. The final application may also be used by parents to keep a record of and check their child’s language development for their own purposes, or in conjunction with early child educators and health care professionals. The project is part of an ARC Future Fellowship (FT190100243) awarded to Carmel O’Shannessy, SLLL, “Tracking language development of Indigenous children in Central Australia”.

This project has a strong human-computer interaction (HCI) focus and involves software development to implement the web application. Phases of this work will include conducting a literature and product review, undertaking qualitative contextual research into collaborative language documentation practices, prototyping and testing possible design solutions, and implementing and evaluating the new web application. The project deliverables will include a functional web application, user manual, and source code.

To submit an expression of interest for this project, please email jennyfer.taylor@anu.edu.au by Monday 8 February 2021 with the subject line “Student Project EOI: HCI design of a web application for documenting Indigenous children’s vocabulary learning”. Please include the following information and attachments: Academic transcript(s), CV, a 1-2 page research plan that includes a brief statement about your interest in this project. Your application will also be reviewed by Dr Carmel O'Shannessy.


Interaction design, user interface design, and web application development (including the ability to work with cross-platform frameworks such as Angular). Preference will be given to students who have completed COMP3900/COMP6390 in HCI or have equivalent experience. Knowledge of the Indigenous Australian context is desirable. Students with an interest or a background in linguistics may particularly enjoy this project, but this is not required.

Background Literature

Battin et al. National Indigenous Languages Report 2020. From: https://www.arts.gov.au/what-we-do/indigenous-arts-and-languages/national-indigenous-languages-report

Bird, S., Hanke, F. R., Adams, O., & Lee, H. 2014. Aikuma: A mobile app for collaborative language documentation. In Proceedings of the 2014 Workshop on the Use of Computational Methods in the Study of Endangered Languages, pp. 1-5.

MacArthur-Bates Short Form Vocabulary Checklist: https://mb-cdi.stanford.edu/eng_short.html

Jones, C. 2019. Early learnings from ERLI tool. COEDL website: https://www.dynamicsoflanguage.edu.au/news-and-media/latest-headlines/article/?id=early-learnings-from-erli-tool

Jones, C., Collyer, E., Fejo, J., Khamchuang, C., Painter, A., Rosas, L., Mattock, K., Dunajcik, A., Escudero, P. and Dwyer, A., 2020. Developing a parent vocabulary checklist for young Indigenous children growing up multilingual in the Katherine region of Australia’s Northern Territory. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, pp.1-8.

Jones, J., Merritt, D., and Ackerman, M.S. 2017. KidKeeper: Design for Capturing Audio Mementos of Everyday Life for Parents of Young Children. In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW '17). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, pp. 1864–1875. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/2998181.2998348

O'Shannessy, C., and Davidson, L. 2020. Language Contact and Change through Child First Language Acquisition. The Handbook of Language Contact, pp.67-91.

Taylor, J.L., Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Shire Council, Soro, A., Esteban, M., Vallino, A., Roe, P., and Brereton, M. 2020. Crocodile Language Friend: Tangibles to Foster Children's Language Use. In Extended Abstracts of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, pp. 1–14. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3334480.3383031


Human-computer interaction, user interface design, web application development, web programming, Indigenous languages, language documentation, child language acquisition.

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